By Betsy Finn, Cr.Photog., CPP
It’s a photographer’s worst nightmare—the dreaded “ERR–” message. And it only happens after you’ve wrapped up that once-in-a-lifetime photoshoot. At one point or another, we’ve all scrambled to find a way to recover those images that would otherwise be lost forever. And that’s where Photorecovery Professional 2010 can help.
In addition to restoring many different types of files from your memory cards, the professional version of Photorecovery includes Digital Media Doctor, which you can use to test the performance of a specific memory card (i.e. how well it reads/writes).
Now, that sounds great in theory, but how well does Photorecovery actually work? I ran several tests with different media cards to find out. My first test involved a CompactFlash card that had malfunctioned during a studio shoot. The camera gave me an “ERR–” message, and the card was unable to be loaded or recognized when inserted normally into my computer’s card reader (inserting this card into my computer has even caused the system to freeze up). Using Photorecovery, I started a sector scan of the 4GB card at 11 a.m. It completed, with errors, around 6 p.m. that evening, and Photorecovery failed to recover any data. I then ran Digital Media Doctor on the 4GB card, which unsurprisingly, did not pass any of the tests. While it might be inferred from these results that the software is to blame, I’m more prone to lay the guilt on the card being completely corrupted. I have sent it out to the manufacturer to confirm this, and I’ll update this report if I hear otherwise.
Screen capture of Digital Media Doctor while running diagnostics on the corrupted 4GB compact flash card.
Since my first test only proved what happens when Photorecovery is unable to recover data, this next test shows what Photorecovery can recover. This time, I used an 8GB CompactFlash card that has been in use at my studio for numerous years. Photorecovery completed diagnostics on the 8GB card without any problems. When initially viewed using my computer’s file browser, the 8GB card did not show any files present, but Photorecovery was able to recover image files (both .jpg and .nef, Nikon’s raw format). I started the scan at 9:26 p.m., and it finished at 9:44 p.m., recovering 760 files.
Screen capture of Photorecovery scan at 85-percent completion, 655 files recovered so far.
Of these 760 files, Photorecovery pulled up images from 5 sessions, my trips to Italy and Israel, PPA affiliate workshops and school classes. Since I reformat my cards after downloading each round of images, Photorecovery was able to recover files from multiple reformats. More impressive to me, though, was the range of creation dates for these recovered files: 12/2010, 11/2010, 9/2010, 8/2010/, 4/2010, 6/2008, etc. I found this to be quite impressive.
My final tests involved some older, off-brand media cards. In less than two minutes, Photorecovery pulled 45 files from a cheap off-brand 512MB SD card. Unfortunately, a closer look at the images revealed that all of the files were corrupted, possibly due to the fact that I had previously tried (unsuccessfully) to reformat this card using Windows (both NTFS and FAT32).
I also ran Photorecovery on two SmartMedia cards. The first, an 8MB SmartMedia card, brought up a Windows prompt to scan the card for errors when inserted into my computer. Using Photorecovery, I recovered 71 images from the card. Several images were partially corrupted, but the rest were fully intact. When I ran the Digital Media Doctor this card, backup, wipe, format, and restore all were completed successfully. Finally, I attempted to read the card via my computer’s file browser, and the card no longer returned the error message. As for the second corrupted SmartMedia card (4MB), Photorecovery was able to restore 63 images.
While no software program will be able to recover 100 percent of data, 100 percent of the time, it’s my conclusion that Photorecovery had a relatively good success rate. Of the five test cards mentioned in this review, Photorecovery was able to pull data (in some form or another) from four of them. Useable images were recovered from three of the five cards. I should note that I also ran Photorecovery on 20 old SmartMedia cards, and it met or exceeded this success rate for image retrieval.
Photorecovery 2010 is compatible with both Windows (Windows 2000+) and Mac (OSX 10.4+) systems. You will need a minimum of 512MB RAM, a card reader, and free hard disk space (as much as the data you want to recover). The Photorecovery software is licensed for one-year periods, and several licensing options are available: Photorecovery ($29/yr, single machine), Photorecovery Professional ($39/yr, single machine), and Photorecovery Professional–Commercial ($249.95/yr). While the software can successfully recover images from most cameras, the Photorecovery site states: “Some cameras wipe the images during delete/format and cannot be recovered.” There is a free trial version of Photorecovery 2010 available; for more information visit the LC Technology website (http://lc-tech.com/software/software.html).
Betsy Finn, Cr.Photog., CPP, has a portrait studio in Dexter, Michigan (BPhotoArt.com); she shares tips and ideas for photographers at LearnWithBetsy.com.